The people's agenda pg. 4
There’s been a lot of research on nutrition and physical activity over the years, much of it funded by the NIH, which can be taken into a program like the Healthier Schools Program that the AHA is doing with the Clinton Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation across the country. We’ve had some successes there, with a beverage agreement and snack foods agreement that will make food and drink in schools healthier for kids.
And we can advocate for changes in regulation and legislation, something that the NIH isn’t allowed to do.
Nabel: It’s important for us to do research to understand what type of interventions make a difference. For example, what types of intervention will be effective in adolescents to help them make healthy lifestyle choices in terms of food selection and physical activity?
Remember that heart disease begins in your teens and your 20s, and that we have an obesity epidemic going on in this country, and obesity leads diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, we’re very concerned that the favorable trends that we’ve seen in heart disease in this country may be reversed by the next generation of young people who have obesity and diabetes.
(But) unless we can communicate our research advances to the public, we might as well pack up our bags and go home.
We are a research and education institution. We fund research, we support research findings and then we have to be in the business of communicating those findings. We do have a very strong program that disseminates many of our research findings… CARD—the Center for the Application of Research Discoveries.
From my perspective, that communication is best done in partnership with organizations and agencies that also are concerned about public health. And the American Heart Association is a great partner in that regard.
What are you doing to attract and prepare the next generation of scientists and physicians?
Nabel: At the high school and college level, we have a very vigorous summer internship program, where students can come to the NIH campus and intern in a laboratory over the summer and get exposed to scientific and medical research.
And we find that this is often an important imprinting period in which students develop a passion for scientific research and will come back to it at a later point in their career… These are programs that have long existed in the institute, and we are making sure that during these difficult times we continue to support them.
Robertson: We think that training science teachers in the summer and giving them experiences in cutting-edge labs may make a real difference in how they educate and motivate their students. We’re planning to do more of that.
We’ve also recognized the need for young investigators to be trained in new ways… Translation is not just from the bench to the bedside, but in its most effective mode, is from the bedside to the bench as well. You have to have people at the bedside who are scientists as well: patient-oriented investigators…